[Writing on Wednesday] Smell

One of the most common (and most overlooked) pieces of writing advice is to use the five senses.

This month I’m going to use the five weekly writing prompts to encourage you to get more sensory detail into your writing by focusing on one sense per week.

dog smelling the air Photo by Jeff Nissen on Unsplash

The Prompt

Write  a story in which a non-assertive character is stuck in a situation with other people who know less than they do and keep proposing the wrong solution to a problem. Make as many of your descriptions and metaphors smell-based as possible.


  • The reason I’m starting with smell is because it’s so evocative and so closely related to our sense of memory. 
  • Allow your characters to make associations between scents and memories. Do it in thought AND conversation
  • It’s natural for us to want to describe how a thing or a person looks, but in this story you’re going to put scent first. Is someone a smoker? (Is the lingering scent in the conference room a particular brand of smoke? The one your main character’s domineering mother used to smoke? How does that make them feel, and act?) Does their boss wear a heavy, dramatic perfume, or smell of a citrus soap? What associations do those things have?

Don’t worry about overdoing it. This is an exercise (if you end up liking this story and want to revise it, you can always revise out the over-reliance on smell-metaphors!)

Notice how often you reach for descriptors based in senses other than smell. Carry that awareness into your other writing this week. 

If you share you story somewhere (and here’s why you might not want to) post a link here so we can come and read it.

Leave a comment to let us know what you wrote about today, and how it went!

Discussion: Was it easy or awkward for you to concentrate on the sense of smell? What did you discover?

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